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Evaluating Web Page Accessibility

This month is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act, which is a federal legislation designed “to [eliminate] discrimination against people with disabilities.” Often times students with disabilities can be left out of online curriculum, which is why it is important to evaluate if your webpage is accessible. In an a recent article George Williams discussed how you can evaluate your webpage for accessibility, he noted the best way to engage in accessibility testing is with actual people. However there are also a number of helpful tools that can automatically check your site for the most important accessibility issues:

  • Wave Toolbar
    WAVE can help you evaluate the accessibility of your web content. WAVE is easy to use, you simply enter the web page address or browse to a file on your computer and select WAVE this page. WAVE will then provide you with a report section at the top of your page with embedded icons and error indicators. RED icons indicate accessibility errors and GREEN icons indicate accessibility features.
  • HTML_CodeSniffer
    HTML_CodeSniffer Is a client-side JavaScript application that checks an HTML document or source code for violations of a defined coding standard. It can be extended by developers to enforce custom coding standards by creating your own “sniffs”. This bookmarklet can work with almost any browser.
  • Tota11y
    Tota11y helps visualize how your site performs with assistive technologies. Testing for accessibility is often tedious and confusing, but tota11y aims to reduce this barrier by helping visualize accessibility violations. Your file will have a small button in the bottom of your corner document, once you click on the button you are able to see the accessibility problems your web page may have.
  • Pa11y
    Allows you to check the accessibility of web pages your own or others. If you are more interested in fixing issues rather than hunting them down you can use pa11y-dashboard.

You can also look at W3C web accessibility evaluation tools list. Over 40 tools listed are software programs or online services that can help determine if the webpage is accessible. All these tools will help evaluate webpage accessibility to ensure everyone can enjoy your webpage.

Create A Better Learning Space

Providing a well-rounded learning space is not always the easiest task, and can be difficult based on the class size as well. Luckily there is a way to deal with such obstacles. In an article on Campus Technology we find out how multiple types of tests, taken by Purdue University, worked and brought in new ways to improve the learning space of their students. To provide a better experience for everybody, the university had to lay out specific requirements for the new physical space, such as: soundproofing, acoustic panels and ceiling mics.

To create a better learning space, Purdue University had to take into consideration the different needs of students taking classes online. In order to turn lectures around quickly for the use of online learners, “Telestream” was applied to do the encoding, which allowed the school to provide recordings to its students within 20 minutes from the time the lecture was finished. The encoding would capture the lecture and place it into one big file. It was then compressed down into a MPEG-4 file that could be uploaded onto a Web server.

This was a great way to improve the experience for students who were taking the class online, but more changes had to be made to take effect on those who physically attended. It was for them that the monitors were removed from the desks in order to design a more interactive classroom layout. Mobile tables and chairs were also added to provide maximum flexibility for the professors and students. For bigger classrooms, containing 75 students, 90 inch screen tv’s were placed on the wall allowing the students to view anything that the professor would display or demonstrate.

The rooms were all designed to function in two distinct modes: the first is the”Presentation mode,” this meant that the equipment in the room was not in use for  lectures being recorded; the second is “production mode,” an operation intended to capture the class. These two modes could easily be switched between one another with one single button. Though as nice and as flawless as this may sound, there were some challenges the University happened to come across. To see what challenges were faced and how they were handled click the link above.

Stanford Chief Wants Higher Ed to Be ‘Affordable, Accessible, Adaptable’

In an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education, written by Jenifer Howard, the president of Stanford University shares his views on the accessibility of higher education.

In a keynote talk on “Information Technology and the Future of Teaching and Learning,” the Stanford president, John L. Hennessy, sketched out ways in which technology could be used to provide affordable, accessible, and adaptable education.

Mr. Hennessy said that Massive open online courses “are not the answer, at least not the only answer.” He also went on to say that hybrid and flipped-classroom models are effective in some settings and that we need to develop adaptive courses to help students learn faster and better, potentially saving time, money and reducing student stress.

There are several challenges that online learning needs to overcome. It needs to help students learn better and provide a customized experience, he said. “In a live classroom, a good instructor can see what works and what doesn’t.” but it might be possible to accomplish the same using real time data analytics on how students are engaging what the material.

Mr. Hennessy also mentions the machine driven hype of the 1960’s with a vision that high quality technology would solve all our problems. “it turns out that human learning is really complex.”

For more information on this topic visit the link above.

Engaging Students with Active Learning

There are now more ways to get students active and interested in classes.

Professor Perry Samson from the University of Michigan experienced a significant increase of the amount of students in his class after he simply added the word “extreme” to the class name. Now that he had to deal with about 200 students from just 40, he decided to come up with a way to effectively teach his lectures to all of them.

Professor Samson is an entrepreneur as well and is the cofounder of a popular weather site and an active learning platform known as LectureTools. His purpose for LectureTools was to get students participating in class through their technological devices in class. This software allowed real-time feedback from the students and was able to capture notes that students were taking, how they answered questions and questions that they asked.


Co-founders of LectureTools (from left to right): Kiran Jagadeesh, Jason Aubree and Perry Samson.
Credit: AnnArbor.com

According to a report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, students enrolled in STEM courses that used active learning techniques had exam scores that were 6 percent higher than the students who did not have active learning. In fact, it was shown that students who did not have active learning were “1.5 more likely to fail course exams”.

Samson concluded that a strong relationship exists between the students’ active learning participation and their outcomes. He says that, although the typical Learning Management System provides grading, assignments and collaboration potential, it does not provide tools that students can use to participate and be active during class time.

Ever since Samson introduced his software into his classes, 68% of his students asked questions in class; there was more of an even distribution among women and men and non-English and English speakers asking questions.

Source: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/04/15/engaging-students-with-active-learning.aspx?admgarea=News

Simplicity for International Teaching

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Comprehending a new language can be difficult, but luckily there is a tool that can help anyone pick it up.

The University of Washington Bothell has been building a large and diverse campus over the years and provides hundreds of types of courses to its students. English language classes are even offered to international students as well. But how are these classes being taught? Is there a more effective way?

The answer is yes! And the Voki app is the right tool to use for these situations. Voki allows the teachers and students to make avatars that can be used to help them with their education. Students are able to design their own Avatars to speak the language they are currently trying to learn. A set of instructions can also be provided to help students understand the meaning of the words and guidance on how they are pronounced. That is only the beginning of what Voki is capable of.

Voki is a great program and has multiple purposes, speaking another language is just one of them. The best thing about Voki is that it is great to use in front of a large class, when one on one with a student, or even by one’s self when alone studying. It is definitely a strong tool and can be used to help students everywhere comprehend things in a different and technical way.

To find out more about what Voki can do and how it can be used, click the link at the top of the page and find out something new and amazing you could have missed.